Goodbye Cassini, now part of the planet Saturn that it was studying

Almost 20 years after Cassini launched, the spacecraft vaporized in Saturn's atmosphere early this morning. Cassini's intentional destruction was to prevent it from possibly crashing into Saturn's moons Titan or Enceladus where there may be life. Above is the last image taken by the spacecraft. Over at the New York Times, Kenneth Chang celebrate and mourns this amazing spacecraft:

Some of the Cassini scientists and engineers had worked on the mission for two decades of their careers.

Nearby, at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which built and operated Cassini, staff in mission control worked through a bustle of final activities. When the project manager proclaimed an end of mission and end of spacecraft, engineers and scientists gave a standing ovation and embraced.

The mission for Cassini, in orbit since 2004, stretched far beyond the original four-year plan to explore Saturn and its moons, sending back multitudes of striking photographs, solving some mysteries while upending prevailing notions about the solar system with completely unexpected discoveries.

"To me, Cassini is really one of those quintessential missions from NASA," said Thomas H. Zurbuchen, NASA's associate administrator for science. "It hasn't just changed what we know about Saturn, but how we think about the world."

"Celebrating and Mourning Cassini in Its Finale at Saturn" (NYT)